Schenectady, N.Y. (June 14, 1998) Naomi Harel of West Hartford, who graduated from Union College with a combined degree in sociology and political science, delivered the student address at the Union College Commencement.
A native of West Hartford, she is a 1994 graduate of Hall High School. She was nominated by a faculty member to be student speaker, and then selected based on content and delivery.
Harel compared two large campus projects the construction of the F.W. Olin Center, a high-technology learning center, and the renovation and expansion of Schaffer Library with the “renovation” of her senior class.
“For the past four years, the administration, staff and the faculty have been working on a project of immense magnitude: the renovation of the student in mind, body, spirit and intellect,” she said.
“As with any other renovation project, there are certain components and people which are integral to the anticipated results. Our professors, our parents, our family, and our friends have been a quintessential part of our improvement over the past couple of years.”
Harel, who will attend the University of Pittsburgh Law School, said she is considering a career in civil litigation.
At Union, she wrote her senior honors thesis on “Juvenile Delinquency: A Social and Legal Response” and presented her research at the Steinmetz Symposium, the College's annual exposition of student scholarly, creative and research achievements. Her advisors were Prof. Martha Huggins and Prof. Joseph Board. Also while at Union, she was a member of the sociology honor society, a dean's list student, president and captain of the rugby club, a member of the International Relations Club and Pre-Law Society, an admissions office tour guide and student ambassador, and representative of Hall Government. She went on a term abroad to Beer Sheva, Israel, in 1996.
While a student at Hall High School, she was a member of the National Honor Society, a member of the track and soccer teams and president of Peer Facilitators.
Student commencement address by Naomi Harel '98
A lot has changed since I set foot on this campus four years ago. Restoration of the Nott Memorial was completed, the college center was renamed, electronic classrooms were introduced, and of course, the construction and renovation of Schaffer Library and the Olin building commenced. But today, I would like to direct your attention to renovations of a slightly different nature.
For the past four years the administration, the staff, and the faculty at Union College have been working on a project of immense magnitude: the renovation of the student in mind, body, spirit, and intellect. To renovate is to improve by remodeling, to impart new vigor or to revive. When we made the choice to study at Union College, we consequently made a decision that would change our lives. Whether you are an undergraduate, transfer, or graduate student, your time here at Union has in some way altered who you are and has created a profile of who you will become. However, the decision to study at Union was just the beginning. It was at that time that the blue prints were laid. The class of 1998 began to take shape soon after.
As with any other renovation project, there are certain components and people which are integral to the anticipated results. Our professors, our parents, our family, and our friends have been a quintessential part of our improvement over the past couple of years.
To our professors — you have been our foundation. You have given us one of times greatest gifts — knowledge. To many, you have been far more than an educator. You have become our friends, our confidants, and our source of pride and distinction. It is with the greatest humility that we thank you. We hope that you look upon yourselves with great pride today. You have been a fundamental part of the finished project. And we all know, that it hasn't always been easy. When we leave here today, please take comfort in knowing how much we each take of you: our professors, our teachers, our distinguished mentors.
To our parents and to our family — you have been our scaffolding. You surrounded us with comfort and sat in the background in case we fell. Your support and love kept our spirits and our hearts alive. We are here today, because as young children, you made us do our homework as soon as we got home from school, because you taught us the value of a good education and the rewards of working hard and because you sacrificed so much because you believed in us. When we stepped out of line or lost focus, you brought us back with a gentle hand. You accepted our collect calls and wiped away our tears when things didn't go as planned. Today, we would like to share our diplomas and our success with you. We are just as proud of you today as you have been of us during our lifetimes. We hold our heads high because of the affection and pride you have bestowed upon us. Thank you for giving us the courage to be who we are today.
And last but most certainly not least, to our friends — you have been our frame. Without you we surely would have collapsed. Remember those first friends you shared your fears with, who later became your closest friends? Remember those bonding nights, when you never felt closer to a certain person, and how that closeness created ties that will never die? Remember how over breaks you had the chance to step back and really see the friends you made and the memories shared, and you were satisfied. Somewhere between day one and year four, we made some of the best friends of our lives. And now, looking back with a smile and a sigh, we wonder where all the time went. Never lose touch with those friends you've made here at college because you have all changed and grown enormously together, and that is something very sacred to be shared. Remember the laughs, let them echo in the back of your mind and reverberate in your heart. Most importantly, stay close to your friends and family for they have helped make you the person you are today.
Awhile back, I came across a quote which seems to sum up what graduation signifies:
Today I begin my life anew. My spirit keeps me young. I keep my mind, my soul, and my body in balance. I have the experience to enjoy and learn from my life. I am strong. I face my future standing straight. I am flexible as the world changes around me. I move through time without growing old. My smile is infectious. I rise to meet life's challenges.
With these words in mind, remember that when you leave here today, you are leaving with so much more than you walked in with. On that note, it is with the utmost honor and pride that I present to you the class of 1998, undoubtedly one of Union College's finest renovation projects ever.